Upgraded Warriors no match for Kobe
LOS ANGELES — It's true that you never get another chance to make a first impression. But if your second impression rocks enough peoples' socks off, no one's going to quibble too much about that substandard debut. Of course, it's better if you don't try that on a night where Kobe Bryant is also in the building.
After beginning his Golden State career with a mythically bad 4-for-21 shooting performance, forward Al Harrington showed Monday exactly why Warriors executive vice president Chris Mullin ran through so many cell phone batteries in months-long pursuit of his services. Harrington scored 30 points (going 13-for-19) and added a season-high three steals and three assists.
But Kobe Bryant responded with 42 points of his own, 14 in the fourth quarter, to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a 108-103 victory that continued his mastery of all things Warrior.
Golden State Warriors guard Baron Davis, returning from a one-game league-mandated suspension, had 15 points and seven assists, but was forced to miss the final four minutes with a cramp in his left calf. Mickael Pietrus notched a double-double with 14 points and a career-high 14rebounds, but it wasn't enough to combat the Lakers' 17 free throws in the final quarter.
The Warriors (19-23) have lost six of seven overall, and seven in a row against the Lakers (27-15) in Los Angeles. If they're going to jell for a playoff run, sooner would be better.
It looked like they might come together for a stirring win when Golden State took a 101-99 lead with 2:05 left on an 18-footer by Sarunas Jasikevicius, playing in place of Davis. But the Lakers sandwiched two putback buckets by Luke Walton around a miscommunication-caused turnover. Jasikevicius zipped a no-look pass from the free-throw circle, but instead of running to meet it, Monta Ellis (16 points) was heading back toward the 3-point line, and the ball twacked into the basket stanchion.
Stephen Jackson missed from the free-throw line on
Golden State's next possession, and Kobe Bryant knocked down two freebies to make it 105-101 with 26.6 seconds left.
The Warriors' final possession of consequence came apart when Jackson drove and dished too high for Jasikevicius, who tried in vain to save the ball. Instead, he merely tossed it downcourt, where Lakers guard Smush Parker could corral it for an easy lights-out-the-party's-over deuce.
The only moral victory to take was the success of Harrington. He hit five of six shots in the first period for 10 points, Jackson added seven points, and Davis had three assists and six points, including a last-second steal that led to a coast-to-coast drive and velvety finger roll as the quarter expired.
Harrington worked from the outside and the inside with equal results. His value to Golden State — and something the Warriors lacked completely before his arrival could be seen late in the third quarter, when he posted up on the right block, drew a double team, then kicked the ball back out. Two passes later, Pietrus made an open 3-pointer from the opposite corner.
Harrington had 11 points in the third quarter, helping the Warriors outscore the Los Angeles Lakers 28-19 and reverse a four-point deficit and then some.
But the Lakers were taking their toll at the other end. Andrew Bynum put Andris Biedrins in foul trouble early and kept him being much of a factor, other than a career-high five steals, before he fouled out with 2:47 remaining.
Kobe Bryant did the same thing to Jackson, forcing a fourth personal early in the third quarter and limiting his time on the floor.
With Jackson in foul trouble, Nelson had to turn to Davis or Pietrus to guard Kobe Bryant.
The Warriors had a brief scare with 5:44 left in the first half when Davis instinctively stuck his left hand out to try and stop a hard pass ahead from Luke Walton. Davis succeeded at breaking up the pass, but afterwards was clearly grimacing and trying to flex his left hand.